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Florida defeats No. 15 Alabama 2-1 in SEC soccer

Special to Gatorsports.com
Florida forward Alivia Gonzalez (40) celebrates her game-winning goal Sunday with midfielder Cassidy Lindley (2) in beating Alabama at the Donald R. Dizney Stadium.

The first collegiate goal for sophomore Alivia Gonzalez was the soccer match winner Sunday in Florida's 2-1 decision over Alabama at Dizney Stadium.

The Gators improved to 1-0-1, while the Crimson Tide is 1-1-1.

"She just gave a lot of motivation," Gonzalez said of UF coach Becky Burleigh. "She told us we practiced this, being down a goal. We were thinking we prepared for this so we put that practice to use and stayed motivated. We didn't let it get us down." 

Alabama got on the board early when freshman Sydney Vincens intercepted a pass attempt to the UF goalkeeper and scored in the fifth minute.

Florida knotted the score in the 62nd minute. Kouri Peace sent the ball to find freshman Maddy Rhodes making a run through the far side of the box. Rhodes' centering pass found Madison Alexander at the near post, where she tucked it inside the post.

With time winding down, it looked like extra minutes were in store. Both teams came into Sunday's match off of ties — Florida and No. 8 Georgia tied 1-1 all and Alabama and Mississippi State also tied by the same score.

The game-winner started the same as Florida's tying goal. Senior Kit Loferski sent the ball to Peace making a right-side run. Gonzalez leapt and caught the cross with her right shin to score at the far post in the 89th minute. It was the Gonzalez's first collegiate goal.

"I was just so excited, not only for the team, but that was my first real goal in college. It was just an exciting time, knowing that there's a minute left in the game and we had our first win in the SEC," Gonzalez said.

Florida's Susi Espinoza recorded two saves Sunday, including an outstretched right hand to poke away UA's Macy Clem's shot to the far post in the 22nd minute.

"Our team really stepped up to the challenge of being down and wanting to win that game," Burleigh said. "But I think it was the tactical change too that really helped us get back to our identity." 

Next Up:  Florida makes its first road trip of 2020 traveling to No. 5 Texas A&M for a 2 p.m. Sunday contest that will be televized on the SEC Network. TAMU lost 2-1 to No. 9 Arkansas today in Fayetteville, Ark. Alabama is the second of a four-match stretch for Florida versus teams among the United Soccer Coaches top 15. Next Sunday, Florida is at No. 5 Texas A&M and returns home to play host to No. 13 Vanderbilt on Oct. 18.

Florida forward Madison Alexander (14) celebrates a goal Sunday vs. Alabama at the Donald R. Dizney Stadium.